Misunderstood Latin Abbreviations.

I have noticed throughout the years that many commonly used Latin abbreviations are misunderstood, or thought to mean something else. Here is just a small list. Please feel free to correct my corrections, if necessary:

Abbreviation: R.I.P.
Misunderstood as: “Rest in peace.”
Actual meaning: Requiescat in Pace meaning, “May he (or she) rest in peace”. Probably from the R.C. Requiem, formerly put on tomb stones.

Abbreviation: E.g.
Misunderstood as: “For example”
Actual meaning: *Exempli Gratia", for the sake of example. Not much, I know. But this all I could come up with off the top of my head.

Abbreviation: Cave Canem.
Misunderstood as: “Beware of the dog”
Actual meaning: “Beware the dog (with dog in the accusative sense).” In order for it to mean "beware of the dog, dog would have to be in the genitive sense.

Abbreviation: BVM
Misunderstood as: Blessed Virgin Mary
Actual meaning: Actually, like RIP, this is from the Latin Beata Virgo Maria, meaning “Blessed Virgin Mary”. Most of you are probably not even familiar with this one. But if you grew up Catholic like I did, you are used to seeing it on Cathedral façades, religious statues, etc.

Misunderstood as: “And so forth”
Actual meaning: Et Cetera, meaning “and others” or “and the like”.

Abbreviation: Illegitimati Non Carborundum.
Misunderstood as: “Don’t Let the Bstards Grind (or Get) You Down."
Actual meaning: Actually, not Latin at all, but mock Latin. “Illegitimatus” is pretended to be singular "b
stard” and carborundum is the trade mark for a brand of abrasives.

Well, this is all I could come up with for now. Does anyone know of any more?


Huh? None of those is misunderstood. And the genitive/accusative thing in “cave canem” is a complete red herring, “of” is not being used in a possessive sense in “beware of the dog”. Now, if you were talking about the way people routinely mix up i.e. (id est, “that is”) with e.g., you’d have a point.



Am I stupid? I completely don’t understand. You’ve just proved that *none of those * were misunderstood.

I’m not exactly sure what you are confused by. When I say “like RIP”, I mean it is a Latin abbreviation, misunderstood as an English abbreviation. As I’ve said, these are all that I can think of offhand. If anyone has any better, feel free to add them.

In his The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambroise Bierce, yongue firmly in cheek, claimed that RIP stood for reductio in pulvis (reduced to ashes).

Not misunderstood, but generally not explained:

The INRI placed on a scroll atop the Crucified Christ stands for “Iesu Nazoreorum Rex Iudeorum” – “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (as the Gospels all note was put up over Christ – but I guess ecclesiatic art often didn’t have room for the whole shebang). A neighbor of mine irreverantly claimed it stood for “I’m Nailed Right In”.

Misunderstood, and not even Latin: The IHS that often graces crosses in Catholic church art does not stand for “In Hoc Signo (Vinces)”, the legend from Constantine’s vision, but is the first three letters for “Jesus” in Greek. I have to admit that I “figured out” that it stood for Constantine’s phrase, and later learned that I was wrong (and that plenty of others had made the same mistake). A case of a little learning being dangerous.

OK - I see what you mean now.

Though I’m not sure I’d call it a misunderstanding exactly since the letters are the same in both languages and the meaning is perfectly clear.

Actually I think many Latin abbreviations are pointless. There are some, like vice-versa, which are universally understood and pose no problems. Others, like “prima facie”, or “ipso facto”, are only understood by some people with a certain background. There are perfectly good English ways of saying the same thing.

I sometimes wonder if people who lard their prose with Latinisms are actually more interested in showing off than elucidation.

Having said that, I think learning Latin itself is a Good Thing…

Just to review the rules, MPSIMS is for jokes and lighthearted banter. Save your serious debates, criticisms, etc. for GD or the Pit. I am not saying anyone here crossed the line and violated that rule. But I thought it was worth mentioning. In conclusion then, thanks to everyone who posted here:). BTW, after I wrote my OP, actually as soon as i submitted it believe it or not, I thought of a really good one: Re. I heard at least one college professor at the community college I went to pronounce it as “read”! Re, as you all probably know, is short for In Re, meaning “in the matter concerning…” Oh, well. Maybe my memory will serve me better in the future (i.e., I was planning on including that one darnit!). Thanks to all, again:).

Res Ipsa Loquitur:

Misunderstood as “the thing speaks for itself”

Actually “the thing itself speaks”. It can be re-written (torturously, IMNSHO) as it’s commonly understood, but the strict meaning does not bear that out per se.

I often see e.g. and i.e. misplaced almost weekly. I.e. means id est or something like that, which literally means “that is”

Abbreviation: A.D.
Misunderstood as: After Death
Actual meaning: Anno Domini: In the Year of the Lord

You must be a real laugh at parties.

I have also heard that has been misunderstood to stand for (pardon the spelling/grammer) Jesus Hominum Salvator - IOW “Jesus, Saviour of Mankind”, but the Catholic Encyclopedia speaks.


Oh good lord, just what this site needed - the Cliff Claven of language mavens. :rolleyes:

I once had someone with a questionable Latin background point out to me that the hospital slang “stat” means “it’s standing.” Which, in a sense, it does. I guess that this guy didn’t realize that the slang “stat” is actually a shortened form of statim and, therefore, has nothing at all to do with standing.

Not sure if this is a common misconception, but it kind of goes along with these examples.

I thought for years that A.D. stood for “after death” and I always thought the IHS stood for “I have suffered”.

'Cos, you know, Jesus be tagging his own cross like… :rolleyes:
I think the nunds told us it was I Have Suffered. Damn nuns.

OK, here’s one I have trouble with; let’s see if any of you smarty-smart pants can make me understand it: viz. Does it mean the same thing as i.e.? And is it an abbreviation of viz-a-viz?

I’ve also heard it misinterpreted as “In His Service”.

viz. stands for videlicet, and means the same thing as i.e., roughly. Literally, it translates to “it is permitted to see.” Merriam-Webster translates it as “namely.”

Vis-à-vis is French for “face to face.”

Or, to hear Jack Chick tell it, it stands for “Isis, Horus, Set.” :rolleyes: